Reports from inside Ukraine, including from Ukraine’s acting president Oleksandr Turchynov, are saying that Russia has launched a full invasion of Crimea, a state in southern Ukraine. Crimea shares a border with Russia and its Russian ethnic majority is strongly pro-Russian, pro-Putin, and in support of the ousted president Yanukovich.
Russia will most likely defend any military action by declaring defense of Russian sympathizers in Crimea against the western-leaning interim government. Russia is also invested in Crimean politics as its Black Sea fleet is stationed at the Crimean city of Sevastopol.
Although Russia has yet to comment on any military activities, Turchynov released the statement:
I personally appeal to President Putin to immediately stop military provocation and to withdraw from the Autonomous Republic of Crimea… It’s a naked aggression against Ukraine
He has also instructed Ukrainian troops and servicemen in Crimea not to engage with gunman of any kind.
Here is what you need to know about this emerging international incident:
1. 2,000 Armed Russian Troops Have Reportedly Entered Crimea
#BREAKING 2,000 Russian soldiers land in "armed invasion" of Crimea: Kiev official
— Agence France-Presse (@AFP) February 28, 2014
For over a day now, the world has wondered if Russia was planning an invasion of Crimea. Now, it appears that they are. A tweet from the AFP reported that 2,000 Russian solders have launched an “armed invasion of Crimea. You can watch a video below of alleged Russian military helicopters flying over Crimea.
Special representative to Crimea: thirteen Russian aircraft land at base near Sevastopol with 150 people on each
— Sky News Newsdesk (@SkyNewsBreak) February 28, 2014
This news comes after numerous eye-witness accounts claimed to see ground personnel carriers, planes, and helicopters from Russia landing across Crimea, particularly outside Simferopol and Sevastopol. At around 3:57 p.m. the BBC reported that the Ukrainian head of police in Sevastopol resigned.
2. Suspected Russian Gunman Took Over Parliament, Airports
Last night, armed gunman sporting no national or recognizable insignia took over two airports in Crimea, a commercial one near Simferopol and a military one outside Sevastopol.
While these gunman had no identifying marks, they were reported to be speaking Russian. These troops barricaded the Crimean parliament building (which you can see in the image above), hoisted a Russian flag above the building, and raised a sign that said “Crimea Russia.”
3. Russia Has Isolated Crimea by Land, Air & Telecommunications
Over the last few hours, the airspace over Crimea was reportedly closed, causing Ukrainian airlines to cancel all flights into or from the region.
Meanwhile, unidentified “militiamen” as the Wall Street Journal is calling them, have set up checkpoints on the two highways that connect Crimea with mainland Ukraine where the anti-Russian Euromaidan protests have usurped the pro-Russian president Yanukovich.
With Crimea now physically isolated from the rest of Ukraine, armed gunman reportedly seized installations and stations associated with telecommunications. The BBC reports that Crimean telephone hubs owned by telecom giant Ukrainska Pravada cannot be reached by mainland offices.
On Ukrainian TV, acting prez @Turchynov says Russia trying to annex Crimea. Things on a collision course if both sides keep up this rhetoric
— Laura Mills (@lauraphylmills) February 28, 2014
4. The U.N. Security Council Is Meeting Today
In a rare emergency meeting, the UN security council will meet today to discuss options of action on the situation in Ukraine.
The AP points out that action, or even a consensus, is not likely from the security council because Russia is a, according to the AP, “veto-wielding permanent member” of the council.
5. The U.S. Is Demanding That Russia Back Down
The United States has already warned Russia that any military intervention in Ukraine would be a “grave mistake.” The U.S. State Department has reportedly been in contact with the Russian government and has made their desires for a peaceful resolution known.
It is unknown at this time how the United States could potentially respond to a full ground invasion of Crimea, but economic sanctions, rather than military intervention, will most like be the first course of action.